Empowering Latino parents in San Jose

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by Michele Beasley
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How do you inspire residents to participate in the planning of their neighborhood when they are dealing with skyrocketing rents, pest problems, and sketchy landlords? Meeting them where they are is a good start.

One of Greenbelt Alliance’s goals for urban village planning in San Jose has been to better engage the city’s Latino population in the process, and in the West San Carlos neighborhood, Luther Burbank Elementary is a gateway into the local Latino community.

I first met Principal Marvelyn Maldonado nearly two years ago and was immediately struck by her commitment to and love for the community. She patiently fielded my phone calls, opened up her school to our community engagement events, and was a speaker on our walking tour, but I sensed that she was dealing with bigger issues.

This became apparent when I asked her to circulate our community platform with Padres con Poder, a group of parents that meets monthly in the school’s library. The group was hesitant to sign on even though some of their ideas from an earlier Spanish-language workshop were reflected in the platform. They believed that the West San Carlos urban village plan would not benefit their community. Padres con Poder’s hesitancy confirmed the need for them to have a stronger voice in the process.

The community wanted to be more informed, so I got together with Chris Lepe of TransForm, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley, and Latinos United for a New America (LUNA). We brainstormed ideas for a second Spanish-language workshop geared to the parents. While I wanted them to weigh in on the City’s urban village plan, the more immediate need was for them to know their rights as tenants.

More than 50 parents attended our community workshop (along with their well-behaved children). The Law Foundation presented and answered questions on housing, covering topics such as rent, habitability, discrimination, and eviction. Neighborhood Housing Services explained their Responsible Landlord Engagement Initiative. LUNA encouraged people to attend an immigration reform rally. We addressed their immediate concerns as families and as a community first, and then tied it back to planning for the long-term needs of the neighborhood such as:

  • More homes, jobs, and parks along West San Carlos Street
  • Bus Rapid Transit
  • A Safe Routes to School program

We also encouraged attendees to get involved with the city’s housing impact fee, which will be voted on by the City Council later this spring, and the Burbank Community Association.

Padres con Poder is a passionate group of parents who love where they live and want to see their community thrive. Greenbelt Alliance will continue our work in nurturing Padres con Poder and other members of the Latino community as leaders whose ideas can help shape the future of San Jose.

Michele Beasley
Regional Director

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4 Responses

  1. Sally Casas says:

    What a beautiful continuing success story. Great work. Morgan Hill is in need of an organization like yours to help bring all community members together. It is the Mayor’s goal for this year. Morgan Hill is in the process of implementing a Growth Strategy Plan without the input from Spanish speaking only residents. I guess the first step would be to create a “Padres con Poder” group within the local schools. The concept of creating relationships between all parents and the school staff is what “No Child Left Behind” had set aside funds for. I guess MHUSD used the money on something else.
    Peace, love & harmony, Sally

    • Michele Beasley says:

      Hi Sally, thanks for this information. Morgan Hill will continue to be a priority for Greenbelt Alliance, as is engaging South County’s Latino community. Perhaps when my workload lightens up, you and I can talk more about this. Michele

  2. Brian says:

    I read about the work you are doing to engage the community over at Bike Silicon Valley. I think it’s great and believe that people will take more ownership and get more use out of the green spaces when they are kept in the loop and involved.

    • Michele says:

      Thanks Brian! We are amping up our outreach to the neighborhoods, especially the Latino communities. If you ever have any advice/ ideas for us- please let me know!

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